Diplomatic Presents

since 2002

"Kunst am Bau" in the Bundestag, Paul-Löbe-Haus, Berlin
High desk, touchscreen monitor, 95 x 44,3 x 53 cm

The delegations sent abroad by the parliamentary committees of the German Bundestag receive presents from the political representatives of the countries they visit, and delegations from abroad bring also presents to the Bundestag. These "diplomatic presents" are not personal gifts intended for individuals but official presents of representative, symbolic value. They are an aspect of politics that often goes unnoticed by the general public; indeed, the large collection of such presents that has accumulated over the years has been kept shut away from public scrutiny.

The presents received by various Bundestag committees over the past decade are now stored in a variety of different locations in government buildings. Only a few are exhibited in government offices; most of them lie hidden in cellars and storerooms. It is in any case impossible to exhibit them all at once. In order to make them accessible to the general public, they are being documented and catalogued in the form of photographs for a virtual, digital book. The book contains all such existing presents that could be traced and lists them according to origin, occasion and date of reception. They may be viewed via the touchscreen monitor as well as on the Internet.

The book will continue to be extended and brought up to date as new delegation presents are added. It also permits each parliamentary committee to present its own art collection. This virtual book raises the question of the nature of functional mechanisms and symbolic acts in the world of politics. At the same time, the fact that these digitally transformed objects are simultaneously virtually accessible and physically absent also raises the question of democratic transparency and public accountability in political processes. Visitors can digitally activate the diplomatic presents and examine their relation to this building's function and that of the parliamentary committee in question.

Karin Sander